MARINElife helps to confirm identification of Blue Whale killed by Icelandic Whalers

Statement: 12 July 2018

Cetacean experts from UK based Marine research charity MARINElife, along with other organisations, have been contacted by Sea Shepherd UK to confirm that images of Whale 22 harpooned by the whaling vessel Hvalur 8 and landed at the whaling station in Hvalfjordur, Iceland on Saturday 7th July was an endangered Blue Whale.


Whale Flukes

Blue Whale (front), Fin Whale (rear) being towed alongside Hvalur 8. COPYRIGHT: Sea Shepherd UK


Having analysed the photographs closely, our team are confident that all features show this animal to be a Blue Whale which is in direct contravention to a number of protections afforded to this iconic species. We hope that independent DNA analysis will verify our findings. Dr Rachel Davies, MARINElife's Conservation Science Manager stated "from the colouration of the animal and the size/position of the dorsal fin along a thick tail stock, my first thought was this animal is a Blue Whale", whilst Emma Neave-Webb, Deputy Chair of Trustees said "From the photographs we have seen, it is without question that this animal is a Blue Whale when you look at the key identification characteristics of skin colour/pattern, baleen colour, dorsal fin shape, tail stock. I am also seeing no indication that this is a hybrid which has also been suggested."


Whales in Water

Blue Whale (left) being towed in to whaling station alongside a Fin Whale (right). The differences between the animals is obvious. COPYRIGHT: Sea Shepherd UK


Blue whales are categorised as Endangered by the IUCN and protected international law including the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). The company responsible for the kill, Hvalur hf, has been hunting Fin Whale since 18th June under a quota agreed by the Icelandic government. MARINElife as a charity is against whaling of any type.

MARINElife is a UK registered charity. It began work as the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme in 1994, partnering with P&O Ferries, and was well known for introducing Wildlife Liaison Officers on ferries to help passengers spot whales and dolphins at sea. MARINElife has published a number of scientific papers from their research, including discoveries related to Fin Whale, Cuvier's Beaked Whale, White-beaked and Bottlenose dolphin, the distribution of other whale and dolphin species around the European Atlantic Ocean, and is a coordinator of the European Cetacean Monitoring Coalition (ECMC). MARINElife is a leader in citizen science, training volunteers to undertake scientifically robust surveys.